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Ballet Talk for Dancers

The journey


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Well, that certainly was a depressing read dancemaven. I'm not sure where this author is getting the numbers but the number of dancers employed in a more "full time capacity" (meaning that the dancer cannot pick up a part time job during the ballet season and their salary pays for their living expenses) in the US looks low. I would like to know what companies have a 52 week contract.


And marigold, I am in full agreement that there is a small window to assess the professional ballet world and how to find a place in it. I would think a lot of teachers are not in the know about current trends and events that affect your dancer's chances of gaining employment so it behooves the parents and dancers to do a lot of research before hitting the audition trail.

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Here are a few companies I found that appear to have 52-week contracts:


The Dancing Wheels Co. (www.dancingwheels.org)

Phildanco (www.phildanco.org)

Keshet Dance Co. (keshetdance.org) [40-week contracts; 52-week salaried)

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Hi Burker,


My daughter danced full-time professionally for 8 years before entering college as a freshman this past year. She still dances part-time with the same company, not a ballet company; it's easier to maintain part-time status at certain contemporary companies.


She is attending an excellent university, known for its academic rigor. Your husband might be interested in knowing why she was accepted and received academic scholarships even though she's an older student: Mostly on the strength of her application essays. Her main essay included a section that compared her life as a professional dancer with the lives of her non-dance friends who had the usual post-high school dorm life experience. She explained that like the college student, she too lived and worked with people of similar ages and varied backgrounds and discovered all kinds of things about herself. She too shared her joys, discoveries and disappointments with her group of peers. She too learned how to get along with all kinds of people. Because she toured a lot with the company, she was also able to write about the education she received seeing the world. She added another funny essay about a specific aspect of the professional dance life. Her essays were considered strong ones.


More and more universities are courting the older student because they like to have independent, self-disciplined individuals who will stick with their academic programs without all the drama that goes along with self-discovery between the ages of 18 and 22. Your husband shouldn't worry about what his daughter will miss. My daughter thinks that what she gained from the professional dance life was equal to, and in some areas, far greater than anything she might have missed as a college dorm student.

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Thank you for sharing, Vagansmom. My husband and I were talking about this last night. I will share your post with him. My daughter is just beginning this journey. We really don't know how long it will last, but all of this information from experienced parents is just priceless. Thank you all.

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  • 2 months later...

Thank you danceintheblood for posting your honest account of your journey and to all the other posters who have responded with their journeys. There so much wisdom here and questions to ponder which I appreciate. We too are trying to navigate through the decision making about what are the best options for DD to realise her dream whilst still keeping her options open. DD who is 14, actually talked about plan B yesterday much to my amazement. Previously she had always rolled her eyes if I mentioned "having a back up plan". Progress! Our journey continues and I at least, realise that it could all change in a "puff of smoke".

I wish all the very best to these wonderful talented focused young people, they have so much to contribute to our world regardless of where their path takes them.

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This was very insightful, thank you. I have a daughter who has just started at 13 now 14 moving very fast I was worried about so much but after reading your journey Im content to keep her at a slower pace and enjoy the beauty of the art.

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Great thread and we have too have struggled with "where will this or when will this' end. It did this week for dd. After a few very painful rehearsals for a lead role at her studio and being told to dance through it... we took dd to Dr. and told that she was just a few more back bends away from a serious injury. This and a few other issues related to high pressure as the lead dancer finally pushed her to "quit". Yes, it breaks my heart, but I am so proud of her for stepping up and verbalizing that this may not be what she wants. She will be taking time off of dance to rehab, but she is already looking into other places to take "ad hoc" classes in different forms of dance. She also wants to "work" and make money (babysit), she wants to volunteer and doing something meaningful and she wants to hang out with friends on a Friday night at a football game. All of this makes absolute sense for a 15 year old and she was told by a couple of professionals she knows, that taking the rest of the year off of the intensity may actually be a good thing. I don't know if she will go back to the intensity of dance she has been at, but I am grateful that she did not turn this "inward" and that she did not seriously injure herself. It is a unknown journey and I am not sure that path will be down that of a ballet career... but more then anything I want her to be happy in her life. Being at the top (at least in her micro world) has already shown her that it carries a lot more pressure then she was ready to handle. I think it is our responsibility as parents that we make sure that they are doing this for themselves and not to please others and keeping that communication line open is so critical. Clearly my dd has taken a step back to make that decision... one that only she can make.

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Kudos to you, vivaballet and your daughter, for taking that step back to reassess while she rehabs. And you are so right, it really is up to her to decide if she wants a dance career. Your love and support will see her through her decision making process.

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Thank you all so much for your shared stories. My DD is only 11 and beginning this journey that is both love and stress roled into one. She wants this but is not a "potential". So it makes her work even harder. The critiisim is tough but she takes it and buries it deep within. I always worry if her dancing so much is too much for someone that does not have natural talent. It seems that unless you start out as one of the best, it is rare that you can go far in this area. But she is happy and loving every minute of it. She wants to go to Julilard or Butler or maybe even become a dancer if she can. I just worry about her having dreams set too high. This is a very scary thing for a young girls mom to see her travel through. But when she is preforming I see how mature she looks and how much she loves it. :) The highs and the lows are a learning point for us both on so many levels. Thank you everyone for helping us through this by your great advice.

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Oops! a dancer wandered into the Parents Forum by mistake and a post was removed.


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  • 4 weeks later...

Oh my goodness! I haven't been to the forum for a while and was very surprised to see this thread was still alive! I've really enjoyed reading all the twists and turns it's taken!


A lot of talk about the old Plan B. I have to admit, we have never had a Plan B. I used to try to get dd to formulate a back-up plan, but could never get anywhere, so in then end I droppped it. "I just want to dance and if I can't be a classical dancer I'll find another way to dance - or I'll teach dance!".


She's a smart cookie and when the time comes to move onto something else, she will do so. And as Thyme said, the Australian education system is very well geared to the mature aged student. The drive and dedication and resilience and discipline she has learned through her ballet life will hold her in very good stead no matter what she does. And one never knows what the future will bring. Life has presented opportunities to me that were quite unexpected and not what I'd planned for at all. I ended up as a well paid professional despite not having a university education so there is hope no matter what your circumstances.


As for dd, well she has had a fabulous year! I saw her dance a few weeks ago for the first time in several months and WOW!!! She has just transformed this year, from looking like a student to looking like a professional. I just adore her teacher. She has not only trained dd technically but she has supported her emotionally and practically and has become a true mentor.


Dds confidence is at a whole new level and this has had a tremendous impact on her performance quality. She has started auditions for companies, traineeships and graduate years at schools overseas. Two down, two offers. Plus a TV show (PAID WORK!!!!!!) and an invitation to dance the lead with her former ballet school in her home town at the end of the year. Each small success seems to build on the last and boosts her confidence and she is brimming with excitement for her future. And me - I have my fingers crossed - all of them - and my toes - very, very firmly!

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danceintheblood, your experience sounds partially similar to ours. We have also tried to get DD to formulate a Plan B, but it never materializes; she just isn't passionate about anything else. Maybe she will find something later about which to be passionate, or maybe she and we will just have to accept that she will do something that is "just a job" about which she is not passionate (after all, we know many people who do that every day). Right now, since the age-related window of opportunity for dance employment is short, we are letting her concentrate her energies on trying to get a ballet job. We won't allow it indefinitely, and she has to have a side job as her schedule permits. The people who hired her for her side job said that they chose her over other applicants because they know that dancers are disciplined and they wanted someone who is disciplined and cares about their appearance. So, I guess it's true that ballet does teach some valuable life skills.

Congratulations to your dancer on her 2 offers and paid work! I'm not sure if my DD is exactly having the kind of success that yours is, but she is still trying and still happy in her current place. This journey is long, difficult, and often seems not to make sense, but I think it is a good field for people who believe in the old adage that nothing worthwhile is easily obtained.

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balletsky, I can empathize. If teachers have unanimously told your DD that a ballet career is unlikely, that might be reason to worry, but I don't know. Sometimes it does seem that only the ones who were superstars from the start "make it", and some of them certainly do, but we've seen some of them drop out for various reasons, and some others who were less talented got jobs through hard work and perseverance and probably some element of luck as well. If your DD is only 11, a lot can still change. My DD was never a phenom, but loved ballet wholeheartedly and found small successes upon which to continually build. Her journey isn't over, so I can't tell you how it will end up, but she has found happiness and fulfillment in the journey and is still trying. She says she doesn't regret it. I hope that your DD does reach her goals and never regrets trying, even if she doesn't exactly reach them. I really admire the ones who want it very much and work hard, and sometimes directors do, too, I hope. We will see... best wishes!

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Thank you so much! My DD's teacher have not said "she isn't a potential" but I can tell by the roles she is given in various productions done in their student company. Her AD also told me that the ones that work the hardest, are sometimes the ones that make it, because they have to work so hard at it. My DD goes straight from school to dance everyday and never says a word about missing all the activities or friend time that her peers have. She just does what she does and is happy. Her family has become her studio and if that is all that ever comes of this then that is enough for me. A safe haven to do something she loves.

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